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Thread: Subtle Bad Science in the Movies That really irritates [Spoilers possible]

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    Subtle Bad Science in the Movies That really irritates [Spoilers possible]

    I thought I would set up a thread after watching Frozen II and after conversations with an administrator, to ensure propriety.

    Today I went to see Frozen II at my local independent.

    Now I know it is fantasy and has magic in it, usually beyond the remit of what Phil used to do with the likes of Armageddon, however there was one line that irked, if you are in the know.

    It is where the snowman character, Olaf says that "Water has memory"

    I suspect that only those aware of the claims of Homoeopathy will have heard this one. Those proponents claim that water has a memory of substances that were in it, even when they have been diluted out of existence.

    Admittedly in the film they do not make reference to homoeopathic treatments whatsoever. However, because of the line "Water has memory" I suspect someone on the writing team must have had an acquaintance with homoeopathy and its claims, and was surreptitiously trying to promote it by bringing out this line of dialogue. I wonder how many people spending money on this "alternative" medicine also made the connection I did.

    Any one else spot any bad science in other movies, that is not as blatant as Armageddon, but is there and irritates?

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    It might be homeopathy or more likely the debunked japanese professor who claimed crystal changes in water that witnessed emotion. However within the magic implied in that film it seems not too bad to me. The scenes to which I object show a person hanging and the finders fail to cut them down and apply first aid. Obviously this messes the plot but any first aid course will confirm that you do not assume death until a doctor confirms it.
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    Would it be so bad if homeopathy was being associated with fantasy?

    Presumably, anyone watching it (even children) know that it is not reality, so essentially, they're teaching the lesson that homeopathy is about as real as ice superpowers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    Would it be so bad if homeopathy was being associated with fantasy?

    Presumably, anyone watching it (even children) know that it is not reality, so essentially, they're teaching the lesson that homeopathy is about as real as ice superpowers.
    Yeah, I think it’s about the same as there being a Yeti in the DnD Monster Manual. I’m fine with telling stories about the Yeti in a fictional world of wizards, dragons, and elves, and (barring some sort of strange public statement from Wizards of the Coast), I don’t imagine it would have much bearing on whether or not people believe the Yeti exists in our world.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    Presumably, anyone watching it (even children) know that it is not reality, so essentially, they're teaching the lesson that homeopathy is about as real as ice superpowers.
    I eagerly wait for complaints from homoeopaths, but am not holding my breath.

    Meanwhile has anyone got any other non homoeopathy related subtle bad science in other movies, including fantasy stuff?

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    Two that are far too common to nail to any particular movie:
    1) Rendering people unconscious with a blow to the head, from which they later recover suddenly and completely at a time suitable for the plot. This is such a pernicious piece of nonsense that I've actually encountered someone who was assaulted, knocked unconscious and quite evidently dumped with complete indifference as to whether he lived or died, who told the story as if his assailants had some sort of delicate scientific technique that matched the movie version in its safety and predictability.
    2) The "random stabbing injection in the side of the neck to produce immediate unconsciousness" thing, which has become popular in the movies in the last decade. Again - no such thing, ludicrously dangerous if ever attempted in the real world, and liable to make me shout at the screen in the cinema.

    Grant Hutchison

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    The way working at a computer is depicted in movies is often ridiculous. Either the person is furiously typing and never uses the mouse, even though clearly they are interacting with a GUI (I'm sure the memorized every single keyboard shortcut). Or the stuff on the screen is way too large.
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    This is probably not subtle, but the way research and experimentation is shown in movies is usually just plain wrong.
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    If you are in any way associated with computers, you can automatically "hack" anything vaguely computer-like in ten seconds with 8 keystrokes.

    "Wait - the window-cleaning scaffolding is electronic? That means I can hack into it and raise it to save that guy!"
    - actual scene in "God Friended Me"

    The UNIX GUI at the climax of Jurassic Park is a terrible - but loveable - example of bad computer depiction. "Hey, let's fly through cyberspace above the computer's folders, like birds over buildings - at a speed of, like, 2 frames per second!"
    Last edited by DaveC426913; 2019-Dec-31 at 06:00 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Two that are far too common to nail to any particular movie:
    1) Rendering people unconscious with a blow to the head, from which they later recover suddenly and completely at a time suitable for the plot. This is such a pernicious piece of nonsense that I've actually encountered someone who was assaulted, knocked unconscious and quite evidently dumped with complete indifference as to whether he lived or died, who told the story as if his assailants had some sort of delicate scientific technique that matched the movie version in its safety and predictability.
    2) The "random stabbing injection in the side of the neck to produce immediate unconsciousness" thing, which has become popular in the movies in the last decade. Again - no such thing, ludicrously dangerous if ever attempted in the real world, and liable to make me shout at the screen in the cinema.

    Grant Hutchison
    Is there a medically-accurate way of making people unconscious with relatively little chance of harm? (Because I write adventure stories, not because I want to attack people and knock them unconscious.)
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    Quote Originally Posted by KaiYeves View Post
    Is there a medically-accurate way of making people unconscious with relatively little chance of harm? (Because I write adventure stories, not because I want to attack people and knock them unconscious.)
    There's essentially no such thing as a quick, safe knockout in an uncontrolled environment.
    Intravenous drugs are quick, but establishing intravenous access isn't.
    Inhaled drugs that work quickly can overshoot equally quickly into overdose, as was illustrated by the disastrous end to the Dubrovka theatre hostage-taking.
    Intramuscular injections are a bit safer, but again there's a trade-off between speed and safety - rapid onset needs a steep diffusion gradient into the circulation, which needs a high dose, which means you get an overshoot into toxicity as the remaining reservoir of drug is absorbed.
    Profound hypoxia is excellent, and will drop a person in seconds, but not without risk and requires either complex preparation or cooperation.

    Grant Hutchison

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    What about an ultrasonic noise that causes a person to be momentarily disorientated - A plot device used on an episode of Mission Impossible (Way back before Tom Cruise ruined the franchise by turning Jim Phelps into a baddy)

    I suspect not...

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    Maybe the legendary 7Hz infrasound weapon, reputedly causing various disorientating psychological effects?
    It was a common trope in the late 60s, early 70s, and natural infrasound was also deployed as an explanation for various hauntological phenomena. Over the years, military spokespersons have denied the existence of such a weapon, but Mandy Rice-Davies Applies.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    Maybe the legendary 7Hz infrasound weapon, reputedly causing various disorientating psychological effects?
    It was a common trope in the late 60s, early 70s, and natural infrasound was also deployed as an explanation for various hauntological phenomena. Over the years, military spokespersons have denied the existence of such a weapon, but Mandy Rice-Davies Applies.

    Grant Hutchison
    Infrasound generated by a pipe organ being used to fake a haunting is part of the first Three Investigators book from the 60s, although I’m not sure when infrasound causing unconscious unease was first theorized about— the investigations most people discuss online now are from the 90s, but if it was in children’s fiction as early as the 60s...
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    Quote Originally Posted by grant hutchison View Post
    2) The "random stabbing injection in the side of the neck to produce immediate unconsciousness" thing, which has become popular in the movies in the last decade. Again - no such thing, ludicrously dangerous if ever attempted in the real world, and liable to make me shout at the screen in the cinema.
    The series Venture Bros played with that trope. They had a character that had been shot so often with tranquilizer darts, etc. that he became addicted to them and sought out situations where someone would try to knock him out.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    The series Venture Bros played with that trope. They had a character that had been shot so often with tranquilizer darts, etc. that he became addicted to them and sought out situations where someone would try to knock him out.
    If it was the tranq dose that he needed, he could fulfill that himself easily enough. If he sought out the circumstances to get someone else to tranq him, that sortta sounds more like a fetish. Just sayin'

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    This may simply be a relativistic effect caused by the mass of the plot, but how about the way seconds get longer when the time bomb is getting close to zero seconds and the hero is furiously trying to defuse it?
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    This may simply be a relativistic effect caused by the mass of the plot, but how about the way seconds get longer when the time bomb is getting close to zero seconds and the hero is furiously trying to defuse it?
    And how about historical people living out their whole lives in two hours from cradle to grave?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    This may simply be a relativistic effect caused by the mass of the plot, but how about the way seconds get longer when the time bomb is getting close to zero seconds and the hero is furiously trying to defuse it?
    Personally, I find this mostly acceptable.

    Ten seconds of story action mapping to 60 seconds of screen time for a bomb defusal is no different from 60 days of story time mapping to ten seconds of screen time for a season change.
    Time passage on screen is never meant to map to time passage in story.

    Though I grant that sometimes the events that happen are impossible to fit in that space.

    I recall once as a child, reading a gunslinger comic where - in a single panel - the guy in black quick-drew his six-shooter - and the guy in white managed to deliver a two paragraph soliloquy and still draw his six-shooter in time to beat the villain.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post

    The UNIX GUI at the climax of Jurassic Park is a terrible - but loveable - example of bad computer depiction. "Hey, let's fly through cyberspace above the computer's folders, like birds over buildings - at a speed of, like, 2 frames per second!"
    Um, except that IS/WAS a real (albeit experimental) UNIX GUI back in the early 90s.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Sticks View Post
    What about an ultrasonic noise that causes a person to be momentarily disorientated - A plot device used on an episode of Mission Impossible (Way back before Tom Cruise ruined the franchise by turning Jim Phelps into a baddy)

    I suspect not...
    Also used in the Iron Man movie.
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    Quote Originally Posted by CJSF View Post
    Um, except that IS/WAS a real (albeit experimental) UNIX GUI back in the early 90s.
    Made me look it up... Silicon Graphics machine.. they were hot back then, at least to those of us who were growing up and becoming computer idiots!

    What always gets me is the computer displays intended to convey some sort of extreme hacking or very advanced computer system, but actually all it does is slowly list some lines of code that may look complicated but might just as well be the equivalent of the "hello world!" program. It makes me cringe to think of some director sitting there and saying "Yes!!! That looks complicated and computerish! We'll use THAT!" ... and every somewhat computer literate person in the vicinity rolling their eyes.
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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    It makes me cringe to think of some director sitting there and saying "Yes!!! That looks complicated and computerish! We'll use THAT!" ... and every somewhat computer literate person in the vicinity rolling their eyes.
    I remember having to explain to friends why I was laughing while watching the Oh-so-serious Terminator movie. It was because the T800 was shown running 6502 assembly code. This terrible robot was based on a ‘70s 8 bit cpu! Futurama played on that too when Bender was shown to have a 6502.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveC426913 View Post
    Personally, I find this mostly acceptable.

    Ten seconds of story action mapping to 60 seconds of screen time for a bomb defusal is no different from 60 days of story time mapping to ten seconds of screen time for a season change.
    Time passage on screen is never meant to map to time passage in story.

    Though I grant that sometimes the events that happen are impossible to fit in that space.

    I recall once as a child, reading a gunslinger comic where - in a single panel - the guy in black quick-drew his six-shooter - and the guy in white managed to deliver a two paragraph soliloquy and still draw his six-shooter in time to beat the villain.
    There was an analogy in Apollo 13 involving motion rather than elapsed time. In the final midcourse correction the movie showed the spacecraft shaking violently. Jim Lovell explained that there was no such shaking, but that he approved of it in the movie because it evoked how they felt while actually doing it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by slang View Post
    Made me look it up... Silicon Graphics machine.. they were hot back then, at least to those of us who were growing up and becoming computer idiots!

    What always gets me is the computer displays intended to convey some sort of extreme hacking or very advanced computer system, but actually all it does is slowly list some lines of code that may look complicated but might just as well be the equivalent of the "hello world!" program. It makes me cringe to think of some director sitting there and saying "Yes!!! That looks complicated and computerish! We'll use THAT!" ... and every somewhat computer literate person in the vicinity rolling their eyes.
    As a sort of inverse to that, there's the much-touted "accuracy" of the depiction of a black hole in Interstellar.Whereas in fact Nolan just picked out an intermediate stage in the visual rendering of the black hole because he liked the look of it. You don't need to know much about black holes to spot that what's shown on screen isn't rotating. After which, Nolan set a series of essentially impossible story requirements, and left Thorne to hand-wave his way to unsatisfactory resolutions.

    Grant Hutchison

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    Quote Originally Posted by Van Rijn View Post
    I remember having to explain to friends why I was laughing while watching the Oh-so-serious Terminator movie. It was because the T800 was shown running 6502 assembly code. This terrible robot was based on a ‘70s 8 bit cpu! Futurama played on that too when Bender was shown to have a 6502.
    Television series, in particular, seem to reuse outdated medical equipment (presumably because it's cheaply available). Those of us of a certain age would convene in the coffee room and say things like "Did you see that Manley Pulmovent in Broadchurch last night? Haven't seen one of those in decades."

    Grant Hutchison

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    House of Frankenstein (1944). Gustav Niemann, M.D. [that's Mad Doctor] outlines his insane plans for an inter-species brain transplantation on the walls of his prison cell. He has many interesting chalk diagrams with of electrical wiring and biochemical synthesis, which I analyzed in detail in a post on another board.

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    Niemann (Boris Karloff) can only dream, until a lightning strike hits the wall and sets him free. His most infamous equation, however, is the one scrawled just under the window as seen here. No, not H + Cl = HCl, which only qualifies as obvious, but rather H2O = H2O.

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    What's the value of that? I Linking multiple water molecules into some polywater with fantastic qualities? Maybe, but the more mundane explanation would be that his apparatus is water cooled, so this just means H2O (liquid) going to H2O (gas) without the qualifiers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DonM435 View Post
    ... No, not H + Cl = HCl, which only qualifies as obvious, but rather H2O = H2O.
    ...
    Well, you have to admit that they are not examples of bad science. Although maybe he should have used --> instead of = in the equations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonM435 View Post
    House of Frankenstein (1944). Gustav Niemann, M.D. [that's Mad Doctor] outlines his insane plans for an inter-species brain transplantation on the walls of his prison cell. He has many interesting chalk diagrams with of electrical wiring and biochemical synthesis, which I analyzed in detail in a post on another board.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	HF01.jpg 
Views:	10 
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ID:	24788 Click image for larger version. 

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    Niemann (Boris Karloff) can only dream, until a lightning strike hits the wall and sets him free. His most infamous equation, however, is the one scrawled just under the window as seen here. No, not H + Cl = HCl, which only qualifies as obvious, but rather H2O = H2O.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	NiemannH2O.jpg 
Views:	17 
Size:	24.0 KB 
ID:	24786

    What's the value of that? I Linking multiple water molecules into some polywater with fantastic qualities? Maybe, but the more mundane explanation would be that his apparatus is water cooled, so this just means H2O (liquid) going to H2O (gas) without the qualifiers.
    NOOOO! Not the deadly DiHydrogenMonoxide!
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    Having just watch the truly laughable second half of Get Out, (you could practically see Bradley Whitford wishing he'd followed the title advice when he read the screenplay), I offer the following:
    1) Nope, hypnosis doesn't work like that.
    2) Nope, no-one does neurosurgery using a selection of ENT and orthopaedic instruments (at least we were spared the usual gynaecological retractor that so entrances many props departments).
    3) Nope, you don't get to put on your sterile gloves and then use your gloved hands to put on your paper mask.

    All of these are tediously common in movies - I was just reminded of them in quick succession by Get Out.

    Grant Hutchison

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